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Le Centenaire, Les Eysies-de-Tayac, Dordogne, France.

A Gastronomic Mecca in the Perigord Noir

Peter and Linda D'Aprix 1998

Mazere's talent flourishes in the heart of one of France's most historic and best known culinary regions, that of the Perigord. This section of France is isolated for the moment from the freeway system that links most of France today and thus has kept its individual character in most ways even today when so much of France is suddenly undergoing modern change despite the brakes of its history. From its particular architecture of high pointed roofs made of stone or tile and walls of golden sand stone, to its rolling hills and lush valleys through which countless streams and rivers flow, the county of the Dordogne of which the Perigord is just a region is a living museum. Its landscape is dotted with story book castles more than 2,000 in all, large and small, fortresses and manor houses. Its culinary contribution is so well known that just to mention black truffles, foie gras, confit de canard, walnut oil and the huge black mushrooms called "cèpes" is to summon the name "Perigordine" in all minds despite the fact that all are available way beyond the borders of the Perigord and most black truffles labeled "Perigordine" are in fact from elsewhere.

photo chef & family
photo aspic

Terrine of vegetables, duck and blood sausage in goose fat binder

photo Mazere

Chef Roland Mazere

Maitre d'hotel, Madame Mazere &
Chef Roland Mazere

photo dessert

Fresh Berry dessert in "basket" of pastry with lemon sorbet

Click photos with blue borders to see larger version.
Peter D'Aprix © 1998

But its deep culinary roots are infantile in comparison to its human history . Some of the oldest traces of humankind are to be found in the Dordogne. The cave paintings of Lascaux at Montignac are the most famous, found by accident by a young boy and his dog. The Cro-Magnon remains follow on its heels in the caves that tower above the riverside village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. All of which bring us to the hotel/restaurant, a Relais & Chateaux member, "Le Centenaire" which lies under the overhanging cliffs of the Cro-Magnon find, a constant reminder of one's place in time. So it is little wonder that Master chef Roland Mazere says "my inspiration is in the past; my challenge is to bring it into the future while retaining its basic character and taste".

When we were his guests, he had just returned from a trip to Paris. When there he says "I make time to search libraries of old book sellers. I poke through hundreds of old recipe books going way back in time. I am looking for things from the past that trigger in my mind new flavor combinations, that I do not necessarily reproduce in the old form but can build on and give me ideas I can run with, makes links that take on a life of their own. The flavor links that are everyday idiom are obvious to everyone like vanilla and strawberries, coffee and chocolate etc. But developing new combinations that create a unique taste, that work well with each other is difficult. So I do research; I search for my future in the past."

But unlike many young American chefs who have a blank canvass before them and whose only limits are their own imagination, who are free to draw from as many different influences they can find, Roland Masere works within his regional bounds. For four years, in addition to his restaurant in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, he set the menu and trained the chefs for a restaurant in the "Dynasty" hotel in Singapore. We asked him if he had blended any Asian influences into his cuisine. He replied with remarkable French hauteur "I started to at the beginning but I quickly realized that with my base in such a bastion of tradition as the Perigord, I had to work from within outwards rather than introduce influences from other cultures. Besides, Asian cooking is stagnant. It does not change and lacks the precision and craft of French cooking. It is all 'hot wok' with the flame blasting away, everything cooked on high heat. In Asia, tradition is the total control, experimentation and evolution are rare. Whereas in France there are far more controls and finesse than just 'how long on the high flame'. It is a more intellectual cooking with precision exercised in many infinitely delicate ways. Each chef contributes his own originality and creativity to the cuisine resulting in more individuality and a gradual evolution to the overall cultural gastronomy." While he may find others to dispute this point of view, he statement well illustrates the purity of his personal culinary approach.

If you find yourself in the Dordogne, a stay at this charming country hotel with its superb food is a must, but ask for rooms in the annex up the hill where it is quiet and the rooms offer a spectacular view out over the village in the valley below.

Hotel du Centenaire
24620 Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
Web Page:

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No copying, reuse or partial reproduction permitted without written permission by the authors, Peter and Linda D'Aprix.

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